Starting on Cloud Eight…
Imagine this: it is October training back at headquarters for the chapter consultants who travel to established chapters across the country. We have been on the road for 12 weeks, visiting a new chapter every week. After 6-10 weeks of recruitment visits and 2-6 weeks of chapter management visits, we are suddenly reunited with the only people in the world who understand our lifestyle. It is an emotional reunion, one filled with laughter and tears. We reminisce for hours immediately following our reunion, as we share a multitude of stories – weird, funny, sad, infuriating and inspiring.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, part of the storytelling would include a workshop facilitated by our supervisor during which she asked, “When you describe your position to others, how do you describe it? What do you tell family and friends who ask you why you decided to become a chapter consultant?” Long story short, many of us responded in a similar fashion, “It’s more than a dream job. It’s an opportunity to work with real, strong women across the country and to give back to an organization that gave us so much in college. To empower women across the country and help them to become the best version of themselves is a profoundly personal journey, too. Each day we conquer our own fears and challenge ourselves to become the women who we always wanted to be.”
Fast forward to December training. All of the consultants are reunited for the first time – both traveling and resident consultants this time – since we either hit the road or moved to our respective resident locations last. As we sit together in a professional development workshop led by our supervisors, we are asked to find a job description for our dream jobs. As we do this, I realize that the hard and soft skills that we learn and refine as consultants are completely transferable to all of our future careers, whatever they might be. More significantly, though, each of us has gained considerable insight into defining and identifying the potential career paths and opportunities that are unique to our self-fulfillment.
During this workshop, I realized that I could live a life full of wonder, inspiration, passion, service, meaningful relationships, and yes, my fair share of adversity (which hopefully results in resilience and growth). I am a chapter consultant and an aspiring physician’s assistant, and each day I am amazed at how much this position has taught me about finding what I call “my employment feng shui.” I was carefully, and intentionally, placed by Alpha Chi Omega as a travelling consultant for region one. In the future when I look for the right physician’s assistant position, I will similarly seek out my personal employment feng shui – a combination of all of the right workplace factors (i.e. the physician, support staff, patient population and amount of potential positional satisfaction). I appreciate daily the effort and thought that was put into placing me in my current position. I hope to apply a similar level of skill and expertise when I am searching for my best fit as a physician’s assistant.
Looking back on my time thus far as a chapter consultant, I have created a list of the practical and sometimes profoundly personal steps that will help me to once again find the best position for me:
- Start with “why”: By learning to start conversations with the “why” as opposed to the “what” or “how,” it is possible to understand the true meaning behind actions and behaviors. Why do I want to be a physician’s assistant? Why do I want one position instead of another? In order for me to start with why, I must ask myself what motivates me? How have I found fulfillment and inspiration in other positions that I’ve had?
- Find a mentor: Although this may seem self-evident, it can be a challenge to find the balance of traits needed in a mentor – someone who is knowledgeable, honest and supportive. I must do the proper research: who do I know that is a physician’s assistant? Does s/he possess the qualities and expertise that I seek in a mentor? Can this person both challenge and support me?
- Know your love language: At first glance, it may seem odd to use this terminology to reference a career since the original intent behind knowing one’s love language was for amorous purposes. But, let me explain what I mean. During consultant training this past summer, we each determined our love language. I learned that my love language is words of affirmation. Can I find a career and a position in which I can receive words of affirmation as my form of praise? Absolutely! In my current position, my motivation is driven by members and chapters that reveal the impact I have made; if I can guide one officer’s leadership development and a woman tells me that I have done so, then I feel that my efforts were worthwhile and meaningful. In the future, I see these words of affirmation coming from patients who I treat, colleagues with whom I work, and the physician(s) who oversee my work. I am hopeful that I can find a practice opportunity where my co-workers and I can understand each person’s love language enough to create a supportive and productive work environment.
- Focus upon realistic optimism: When searching for the right position, it is important for me to remember to remain realistic and optimistic; rather than focusing upon the positions I don’t want, I need to find the ones I do want. It is so much easier to describe what I don’t want in a position than it is to determine what exactly I do want. Realistic optimism can be achieved in various ways. I have found the journey of a chapter consultant to be both incredibly challenging and rewarding; and thus, I must be able to identify my strengths and weaknesses, and find ways to overcome the latter. I must also be adaptable and appreciate adversity because I cannot be prepared for every situation, person or behavior I will encounter. Paralleling the unknown that is encountered, I must also remember to set realistic goals. For me, a career that is easy is not necessarily fulfilling. I must ask myself, “Are my goals and my ideal position realistic for me to accomplish/attain? Is it realistic for me to work certain hours? Does a position offer the benefits I am seeking?”
- Find an opportunity…not a job: I absolutely love that being a chapter consultant is more than a job. It’s an opportunity. Yes, I do get paid to travel to chapters across the nation, meet women I am able to inspire and who inspire me and I have the potential to create change in a chapter and influence lives. But these incredible benefits result from an opportunity, not a job. I choose not to view this position or any position in the future as merely a “job” because there is often a negative connotation associated with that term. I am seeking a lifetime opportunity in which I can positively impact others, create change and encounter experiences that consistently help me to become the best version of myself.
- Seek a position that you can “grow with” rather than “grow into”: For me, a dream position is one which I find challenging, stimulating and ultimately, doable. A position for which I have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to understand or accomplish effectively, or one that I consistently feel is not feasible is not the one for me. Since I am interested in family practice, my ideal position is also one in which I can achieve employment longevity.
- Start on Cloud 8: Ultimately, my ideal physician’s assistant position is similar to my current position as a chapter consultant. I must find an opportunity that is fulfilling and stimulating as-is; this is cloud eight. I must also find an opportunity that has “Aha!” or ”Wow!” moments, moments that catapult regular feelings of satisfaction to those of euphoria; this is cloud nine. Finding a position or opportunity that is always perfect – one in which I am always on cloud nine – is impossible. What I can find instead is a position that helps me to reach cloud nine as frequently as possible.
I know how to reach my cloud eight. Do you?